I recently read an article from the Wall Street Journal, “Where Are All the Senior-Level Women,” that made me smile because it meant I wasn’t crazy. The article talked about how there is a lack of senior-level women in management. I questioned in my previous blog, “Would I Rather Be A Pickle Jar Opener,” how on earth as a woman we are supposed to be able to do it all. Now after reading the WSJ article I am wondering if another reason women are stepping out of senior management is simply to life. It is difficult at my age to figure out how to balance it all and I am only just looking towards my future. I’m not in the middle of balancing middle management duties with being a mother as so many other women are.
I look around the office each day and find many of these middle management mothers who are balancing it all. While in the past I have in the past doubted their management skills as a lack of proper training and encouragement, maybe the case is simply that they have so much on their plate and are not sure of how to handle it all. In my traditional day I usually hope that at some point an extra few hours will pop up and suddenly it would be a 28-hour day, but alas it still hasn’t occurred. If I could just have 4 more hours I could have time for work and a life. I must have said that out loud at least once a day every day during my first year in management. By year two I realized that in order to stay as dedicated as I was at work I needed to find a way to have a life outside of work. By year three I was finding more ways to tweak the balance between work and life.
I have learned that it is certainly possible to still have a personal life. I swear! This isn’t an ill willed joke by any means. I’m as serious as Moose Tracks ice cream is amazing. How can you not love a creamy substance full of chocolate, peanut butter, and mini chucks of peanut butter cups? Frozen goodness aside, I learned a lot those first few years. I was convinced if I didn’t eat, sleep, shower, and breathe with my work cell phone by me at all times then something would fall apart at work without me. I learned that the world will keep spinning, tourists will keep paying to get into the park, and the show will go on even if I don’t answer my phone on the first ring. After all, this is why voicemail was invented. Right? Right!
Now I know that being diligent doesn’t require giving up everything in my personal life so I can always be surrounded by work. It all started with small changes. First I learned to leave my work cell phone in the car when I was out to dinner with friends or family. Then I attempted leaving it at home when I would go out on my days off. Next thing I knew, I was out for a whole day of deep-sea fishing, without any cell phone signal, and my world at work didn’t crumble. I have found myself to be even more dedicated and motivated at work now then I was during those first couple of years. Since I make time to separate my mind from work when I’m not there, I’m less overwhelmed by everything that always needs to be done when I am on duty.
I know that letting go can be difficult. Some times delegating is even harder. And you can bet I’ll be discussing this in a future blog, as it is an entire topic on its own. However, I have learned that allowing yourself to still have a life can actually improve your management techniques if you do it properly. Remember what your priorities are in each area, let yourself have fun so that you are ready to dive back into work and know that you will actually be a stronger manager when you aren’t on edge. My recommendation, start with a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream and then take a moment to brainstorm how to handle the rest. Go ahead, get wild and add some hot fudge if you are daring! Think of it as the best choice you’ve ever made for your employee’s future.